** Originally written on July 6, 2016 in response to a Facebook post about what happened at the Toronto Pride parade **
Let me start by saying that this is very long and my thoughts are all over the place. I hope I make sense. I’ve never been an activist. I’ve never marched in protest of anything. I’ve never participated in a sit-in or any other type of civil disobedience. I’m a feminist. I believe in human rights for all, including the right to protest. I choose to show my support for causes in a quiet, non-confrontational way.
I’ve always looked at the LGBTQ fight for equality and basic rights as the modern-day equivalent of the civil rights movement of the 60s.
Pride is always a good time in Toronto. The parade (although I haven’t attended in years) is the culmination of Pride festivities. What few realize (or remember) is that Pride itself in all its glory, fun, and festivities IS a protest. Some of us are old enough to remember the LGBTQ rally cry of the past… “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it!”. It has taken a long time, but many people are on board. I have always considered myself an ally.
I can live the life I have because of the civil rights movement. My LGBTQ friends can live their lives openly if they choose because of the gay rights movement. Much progress has been made on both fronts but much more still needs to be done. Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, other innocent black people murdered by police, and the 49 innocents slaughtered by a self-hating homophobe at Pulse nightclub in Orlando prove that.
I have to admit that I cringed when I heard about the sit-in. I cringed for 2 reasons: Reason 1- It was such a visible display. It seems that when it comes to black issues in particular and to black people in general, “society” would prefer us to sit down and shut up and be grateful for what we have. A few years ago, one of those horrible “Duck Hunter” people said that black people were much “happier” when we were slaves. WTF??? If that’s the case, how about we change places next time? Also, during the run of the show “Mad Men”, there was an episode when Betty, Don and some others were discussing the whole civil rights “thing”. They were more irritated and inconvenienced by it than the fact that an entire group of people were being treated as second-class citizens. Betty Draper uttered a phrase that annoyed the living fuck out of me…”It’s just not the right time.” WHAT??? And when would be a good time for you?? I hated her character even more after that.
Reason 2- The racist shit would hit the fan…which it has. I think what bothers me the most about the backlash about BLM is that if it were another group staging a protest within a protest (say a non-black group protesting about XYZ against its non-black members) the hatred and vitriol would be minimal. The venom that is being spewed at BLM Toronto is appalling. The backlash is rarely disagreement with the reasons for the protest. In a Toronto Star article from yesterday “the vitriol demonstrates the racism it is trying to combat with its actions”. Mathieu Chantelois’ dismissive and patronizing statement to the media that he “only signed the list of demands so he could get the parade moving again” is an example of how insignificant black issues are to some. He had no real or genuine interest in what BLM was trying to do because “The show and the parade had to go on”. I’m sure that the hate mail sent to BLM by some members of the LGBTQ community are from those who don’t know or don’t remember that Pride started and conducted itself in much the same way as BLM is.
What do you do when no one takes your life seriously or thinks you matter? You take things into your own hands and make them matter.